During the Thanksgiving holiday, my boyfriend and I have been visiting friends and family back East. Tomorrow we’ll be heading home. Being around the couples and family members we spent time with I couldn’t help but notice the various communication styles on display – and wonder how they effect our relationships, and even the quality of our lives.
In her book “That’s not What I Meant!” linguistic expert Deborah Tannen suggests that most Americans tend to be indirect rather than direct in the way we communicate – whether out of politeness, fear or manipulation.
In her research, she has found that indirect communication, both verbal and non-verbal, leads to increased stress and potential conflicts. This is especially true during PMS because a person’s communication style can become exaggerated, which often widens the chasm of misunderstanding.
Even though each of us has a rather unique communication style, they generally fall into four main categories:
The Aggressive Style:
This is a style to dominate, control, and get what one wants at any cost. An aggressive communicator may employ various techniques including sparring, accusing, threatening, blaming, labeling and interrupting. Since it is almost always a win-lose situation – I win and you lose – the aggressive communicator may risk alienating others.
The Passive Style:
With this style, the communicator withholds her thoughts, feelings, wants, desires and ideas to avoid confrontation, tension and conflict. The fear of speaking up tends to build up anxiety and resentment over time. Again, this is another win-lose situation – you win and I lose.
The Passive-Aggressive Style:
This style combines the worst of aggressive and passive communication styles. With this style, the communicator may attack first using aggressive style, and then become passive in the face of conflict. The passive-aggressive communicator often fluctuates her approach and outcome – sometimes you win and I lose, and vice versa.
The Direct Style:
This is direct, honest, and assertive communication. A direct communicator stands up for herself, speaks her truth, and expresses her feelings in a clear and direct way. She also respects the same from the other person. This is a win-win situation, and it often involves give and take, negotiation and compromise, but in the end it’s fair to all parties.
So what’s your communication style? It is obvious that the direct communication style is the healthiest, easiest and most effective. It is, however, not easy for many of us to do because of the habits we developed growing up. But to improve the quality of our relationships and our life, it’s never too late to learn, practice, and over time, refine more a direct style of communication.
P.S. For more, learn the CANDOR technique for direct communication for direct communication.